By Claire Brooks
I can’t tell you exactly where my grandfather’s from, but I can tell you that he walked to NYC from somewhere in the south after he was chased out of his home by his own father’s gunshots. Oh, and he was barefoot.
I can’t tell you much about my father’s twin brother, except that he was murdered by a man that apparently went on a double date with my dad and my mother to Coney Island just a few weeks before.
I can tell you that my dad first hit on my mom at an arcade out in Queens by walking up to her and complimenting her on how nice her hair smelt. Which, by the way, translates to: my dad was probably WAY too close for comfort, and I’m guessing my mother gave him her number as some sort of defense mechanism. Amazingly, they’re still together, so in my dad’s favor, good play.
This is what I was raised with but multiplied a dozen times. A story for every aunt, uncle, cousin, wedding, birth, death, injury, you name it, there’s a story for it. So before I was even conscious of it, I was sitting around just soaking up weird stories from even weirder/crazier people (sorry family, but let’s face it) and thinking this was 100% normal.
So two weeks ago, apparently yearning for new stories, I decided to start a Craigslist advice hotline a la Lucy from Charlie Brown minus the 5 cent fee.
I have to go back a second and preface this with my love of Craigslist and our long and wonderful relationship together.
- My parents found and bought their house on Craigslist
- I lived in Beijing after high school and found an awesome studio apartment thanks to Craigslist
- Actually my current apartment is a Craigslist find too…
- Most of the furniture in my apartment came from Craigslist
- I used to ghost write papers and essays thanks to Craigslist, and so I guess I have Craigslist to thank for a free MA in International Relations from The New School)
Within 2 hours of the posting going live I received over 30 emails and was able to take about a third of them in phone calls. I also received two pictures of male genitalia, which was to be expected. Chat Roulette taught us all that the price to pay for a little Internet fun is an occasional picture of a penis.
My quarter life existentential crises were put to complete shame by the extent of absolutely horribly sad things I’ve heard doing this advice hotline. Which, I’d like to note is not really an advice hotline, so much as a rant and vent hotline. But occasionally I get a caller who really wants my opinion, and then I get to unleash my psychiatrist, which is decidedly part Oprah, part Tyra, and part Freud.
Well into the night I sat drinking wine and taking phone calls and emails, literally tingling with excitement every time I felt my phone vibrate notifying me of a new phone call, text, or email. I was fielding questions from divorcees, the recently unemployed, and many a man completely befuddled by the seemingly erratic actions of a girlfriend. Until 2 AM, when I received a completely different request.
The man I was talking to was in a bind. He lost a bet and needed someone to streak around a NYC block with him. Ok. He wanted me to hold his clothing and walk nearby as he completed his naked run; to deter any late night dog walkers from calling the cops or drunk college students from beating the crap out of him. Ok.
I said yes. I had every inclination to say no, but I said yes. Within minutes, I was waiting outside a McDonald’s at almost 3AM in below freezing weather, equipped only with my cell phone and a wine opener, clearly the most effective weapon of choice against a potential craigslist murderer rapist.
I would have no use for it, because once my guy stepped out of the taxi, my fears dissipated. He was a short bald middle-aged Hispanic man. Bald men are not intimidating, especially naked bald men. We found a corner, he took off his clothes, and we walked around that block. Cars honked, people shouted, but I held his clothes and walked beside him, answering questions from anyone who actually tried to figure out what was happening.
It went surprisingly fast, and when we got back to the corner and he started to dress, he looked at me and told me all the about the “rush”. How liberating it felt. He offered me $130 cash to streak with him. And that’s when I said no. I didn’t even think about it—my answer was no.
It’s been a few weeks now and I’m still taking calls ever Friday night from Midnight till 3AM. I even allow my frequent clients to text me on weeknights for quick advice. All in all—it’s going great.
Maybe there hasn’t been enough time, but I’m still grappling with my nudey streaker episode. I wish I could end this with some big manifesto about stories, how we find them, the lengths to which we go to get them, but I’m not there yet.
What is left is a vague sense of regret and associated with being able to play along yet not participate. It’s the feeling I associate with being on the brink of an absolutely perfect experience (and story), and then backing off, shying away from, and playing it safe.
I can’t tell you exactly how my future kids will respond to this half-story, but I know they’ll pry at it, begging for more details, demanding some explanation for every choice I made that evening, somehow trying to make it whole and force it to make some sense, and by extension make me make sense. Goodluck to them, that’s a task I happily yield to the listener.